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PREP BASEBALL INSIDER: Sycamore looking for an offensive spark

Published: Tuesday, May 13, 2014 10:05 p.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, May 14, 2014 7:16 a.m. CDT
Caption
(Monica Maschak – mmaschak@shawmedia.com)
Sycamore's Cole Nelson throws a pitch Saturday in the sixth inning against Belvidere North at Sycamore Park. Sycamore won, 9-1.

Mark Skelley has continued to heed the message Sycamore coach Jason Cavanaugh has preached. 

He followed the scouting report on Yorkville’s soft tossing starting pitcher in Monday’s 4-3 loss and in turn went 3 for 4. While Skelley said “home runs are thrown by the pitcher, they are never hit,” he led off the game with his first home run of the season to left-center field. 

The pulled homer to lead off the game caused the Foxes to swing their defense to the left side of the field. The patient leadoff man simply followed his usual approach and notched a pair of opposite-field singles. 

Cavanaugh encouraged the Spartans after the game to follow Skelley’s approach.

“The wind was blowing out against a pitcher that topped out at 75 (mph),” Cavanaugh said. “I have no explanation for how we couldn’t hit. We saw curveball after curveball. Our scouting report was to move up in the box and hit it back up the middle or to the right side. Only Skelley did that and it shows in the game he had.”

With four of five Sycamore Northern Illinois Big 12 East losses by one run, the Spartans need an offensive spark.

“It’s not our part-time players,” Cavanaugh said. “It’s our main guys. We’ve got to attack at-bats. We’ve got to have some selfish pride when it comes to winning. We need one of our future college baseball players to step up. Get an RBI in a timely situation, or just keep the line moving with a good at bat.”

T’wolves max out: Indian Creek had an efficient offensive performance in a 5-1 win against Somonauk on Monday.

Its stat line didn’t wear out the scorekeeper, as Indian Creek managed only two hits. One was a bunt single. But with seven walks the T’wolves knocked Somonauk from the ranks of the unbeaten and moved into first place in the Little Ten Conference. 

Against a team that has to feel like a Little Ten title is its birth right, Indian Creek wasn’t intimidated and turned in a flawless defensive performance.

“This year we’ve done a great job of being mentally strong,” Indian Creek coach Joe Piekarz said. “We don’t get too high or too low after a win or loss. We take advantage of opponents mistakes and we limit our mistakes. Because we throw strikes and play solid defense, opponents have less chances.”

VIEWS: Two teams that have sat atop the power rankings this year are headed in different directions

Sycamore has racked up 20 wins. It has prodigious individual offensive numbers and a deep pitching staff. Yet, as the season wears on and the stakes grow higher, the Spartans’ offense has struggled. 

“Our pitching has been solid,” Sycamore coach Jason Cavanaugh said. “Our offense has been a disappointment lately. The team numbers look good but that’s because (of) when we put up huge numbers against some teams that are struggling.”

As expectations ratchet up for Indian Creek, a team that took its lumps the past two seasons as its underclassmen matured, the T’wolves have stayed grounded as they have focused on what they can control. 

“Just be better every inning,” Indian Creek coach Joe Piekarz said. “We don’t look at the other team so we aren’t intimidated by a program’s history or uniform. We are playing the nine guys on the field every game as hard as we can every inning.”

James Nokes covers prep sports for the  Daily Chronicle. He can be reached via email at sports@daily-chronicle.com

SPOTLIGHT ON ...

Chris Pickwell

Indian Creek, junior, pitcher

While Indian Creek coach Joe Piekarz has stressed to his team that every inning they play is the most important inning of the year, the upstart Timberwolves got the performance they needed from their crafty left-handed starting pitcher against Somonauk, the Little Ten Conference’s perennial powerhouse. 

“Somonauk was undefeated in the Little Ten,” said Piekarz after the T’wolves’ 5-1 win Monday when Pickwell threw a complete-game five- hitter with 10 strikeouts. “It was a nice win for us. But, we still are focused on getting better every inning.”

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Sycamore at Yorkville, 4:30 p.m. Thursday 

Baffled by a soft-tossing pitcher on Monday, the Spartans once prodigious offense needs to find its way before the playoffs.

POWER RANKINGS

1. Indian Creek (13-2, 12-1 Little Ten Conference)

2. Kaneland (14-12, 9-6 Northern Illinois Big 12 East)

3. Sycamore (20-6, 8-5 NI Big 12 East)

4. Genoa-Kingston (11-8-1, 4-2-1 Big Northern East )

5. Hiawatha (9-7, 8-6 LTC)

6. DeKalb (10-11, 3-11 NI Big 12 East)

7. Hinckley-Big Rock (6-11, 6-6 LTC)

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